Introduction to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Bishkek is the capital city of Kyrgyzstan and it is located on the northern border, very close to Kazakhstan. The city has wide boulevards and that adds a very pleasant aspect to the city. Additionally, Bishkek is surrounded by the Tian Shan Mountain range which provides majestic mountain views from within.
The original name of the city was Pishkek and it was established in 1825 as an Uzbek fortress. The fortress was used to control the trade routes and extract tribute from the local Kyrgyz tribes. In 1860 the fortress was demolished by the Russians and thereafter it came under Russian control. However, the name Pishkek was initially retained for the time being. Then in 1925, the name of the city was changed to Frunze after a Bolshevik military leader. As a result, the name Bishkek was not instituted until Kyrgyzstan attained independence from the Soviets in 1991.
The central square in Bishkek was built under Soviet rule in 1986 to commemorate 60 years as a the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic. As a result, a giant statue of Lenin was at that time placed in the middle of the square.
However, after achieving independence in 1991 the new Kyrgyz administration chose to replace the Lenin statue. In 2003 it was moved to a smaller square where it still sits today (see above). Its replacement, called Erkindik (freedom) was then installed in its place. However, the Kyrgyz again decided to replace the centerpiece statue in 2011 to commemorate 20 years of independence. The new replacement would be a new statue of their historical national hero named Manas.
The New Statue Of Manas
Manas is an important figure in Kyrgyz history because he united the 40 tribes and therefore preserved the Kyrgyz culture for posterity. As a result, he was chosen as a symbol of unification for the Bishkek people because of the ethnic tensions that had arisen in the country post independence. Theoretically, the symbol of the historic figure of unity would help quell the tensions.
Tulip Revolution of 2005
Unfortunately, Ala-Too Square would become the location of the Tulip revolution in 2005. The protest was due to the dubious results of a parliamentary election and the protestors grew violent when the government refused to acknowledge their demands. Eventually, the protestors would storm the presidential office building forcing the president – Askar Akayev – to flee the country and resign his position.
This square and its monuments was also completed in 1986 to commemorate the great war and the suffering that the Soviets had to endure to secure victory. The main monument is called the Monument of Victory. The arches are again symbolic of the yurt crown “tunduk” which is similar to the symbol at the center of the sun’s rays on their national flag.
Monument of Victory
At the center of the photo at the top of the stairs is the statue of a woman who is holding a cup of milk. She stands near the eternal flame and waits for her husband to return from the great war. Additional monuments at the Victory Square memorial include 2 men carrying a dismantled machine gun returning from the great war.
Additional things to do in Bishkek…
There are other interesting things to do in Bishkek. Additional features of the city include the historical museum, the Alley of Heroes and the Park of Ataturk. Moreover, there are a few pleasant restaurants and cafes located in the city. There are also some clubs for those who wish to explore the Bishkek nightlife.
However, the most grand feature of Kyrgyzstan is of course the mountains. Bishkek has easy access to a couple of majestic hiking opportunities. Therefore, I will cover these in more detail in a separate post including HD video and photos.